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Labor Day weekend is upon us, which means the back-to-school season is in full swing. While many students across the country already started classes in August, others are gearing up for their first days in September, heading back to the classroom amid national uncertainties across K-12 and higher education.
Teacher shortages are affecting schools in multiple states, from Florida to Indiana to Utah. Research published last week shows that teacher shortages are worsening in several states, and it was not a pandemic aberration. Instead, the shortages seem to be part of a worrisome trend: Teachers are leaving the classroom at higher rates, and there isn’t a big enough pool of candidates to replace them.
As The Washington Post reports, Tuan Nguyen, a Kansas State University education professor, and two colleagues counted more than 36,500 vacancies in 37 states and D.C. for the 2021-2022 school year. Their updated data found that teacher shortages had grown 35 percent among that group, to more than 49,000 vacancies.
And even in states that saw a reduction in vacancies, there is growing concern about who is filling those jobs; many states lowered job requirements in response to the pandemic, and schools increasingly relied on instructors with fewer qualifications.
“When you have a shortage of certified teachers who have been trained combined with an increase in student misbehavior,” Jackson Green, the principal of Charles M. Sumner Education Campus in rural Maine, told the Post. “That drives a lot of people away from the position.”
There are some bright spots as the school year starts: Detroit Public Schools Community District and its primary teachers’ union reached a tentative wage hike agreement just hours before the expiration of a previous contract. Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, the largest teacher’s union, said during a visit to Grand Rapids that Michigan is on the right track toward resolving teacher shortages by raising salaries and making the positions desirable and competitive. She said the barriers created by the pandemic exacerbated a preexisting teacher shortage.
“We have been losing teachers at the front end of their career and in the middle, which is really concerning for us because those are the mentors for the new teachers,” Pringle said. “Even at the end of their careers, we have teachers who are retiring early because of the stresses of teaching.”
CNN: At least 30 of 52 Florida public school districts that closed ahead of Hurricane Idalia reopened Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said. Eight are scheduled to reopen today.
Meanwhile, a reminder to college graduates that interest on student loans starts accruing again today. After more than three years, interest on student loans is back as part of the Biden administration’s “on-ramp” repayment plan. Like payments on the loans, the interest had been on a pause that began at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and was renewed several times. While payments themselves don’t resume until October, The Hill’s Lexi Lonas breaks down what borrowers need to know as interest resumes.
“If you are in a situation where you’re really worried about being able to make your student loans, I would say your best bet isn’t to plan on using the on-ramp,” said Jacob Channel, senior economist and student loan repayment expert at Lending Tree. “Instead, it’s — right now — to be logging into your student loan service account, figuring out what your interest is and starting to budget. If you’re really worried about it, get in touch with studentaid.gov or your student loan servicer and ask about things like income-driven repayment plans.”
Note to readers: Morning Report will return on Tuesday. Enjoy your Labor Day holiday!
▪ The Washington Post: In a crisis, schools are 100,000 mental health staff short. The demand for aid radically exceeds the supply of help, and providers are experimenting with how to address the emergency.
▪ Axios: More shootings push schools to reckon with the backpack dilemma, including mandating that students bring clear ones to class.
▪ NBC News: Parents in the Houston Independent School District are fighting back against whirlwind changes instituted by new superintendent Mike Miles.
LEADING THE DAY
© The Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas last fall.
Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, criticized for alliances with conservative benefactors whose personal generosity was revealed in news accounts during the past year but not initially by the justices, completed 2022 financial disclosures released by the federal court system Thursday. Both justices sought and received 90-day extensions from a May deadline (The New York Times and The Associated Press).
Thomas responded in detail to reports that he had failed to disclose luxury trips, flights on a private jet and a real estate transaction with Texas billionaire Harlan Crow. In an unusual move, he included a statement defending his travel with Crow, who has donated to conservative causes, suggesting he flew on Crow’s private jet to avoid commercial travel for security reasons after the leak of the draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade and eliminating a constitutional right to an abortion, the Times reports.
ProPublica reported in a series of articles that Crow treated the justice to lavish trips, including flights on his private jet, island-hopping on his superyacht and vacationing at his estate in the Adirondacks. Crow also bought the justice’s mothers home in Savannah, Ga., and covered a portion of private school tuition for Thomas’s great-nephew, whom he was raising.
Alito took a luxury fishing vacation with hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, who had business before the court. Alito did not recuse himself (ProPublica). And The Associated Press reported in July that Justice Sonia Sotomayor, aided by her staff, advanced sales of her books through college visits over the past decade.
Democrats and judicial watchdog groups have renewed a push to require the Supreme Court to adopt a binding code of ethics, arguing the justices can’t be trusted to police themselves. A few Democratic lawmakers called for Thomas to be impeached.
While the debate over Supreme Court ethics is unrelated to any specific court case, and although the activities of liberal justices have also come under some scrutiny, the issues disclosed by ProPublica reopened debate about the direction of the high court and its conservative majority (The Hill).
In April, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said his panel would seek an enforceable conduct code to apply to the nine justices. He called Thomas’s “behavior,” as reported, “simply inconsistent with the ethical standards the American people expect of any public servant, let alone a justice on the Supreme Court.”
House Republicans came to the justice’s defense.
“The Left has been out to get Justice Clarence Thomas for over 30 years. They started before he was even confirmed,” House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), House Republican Conference Vice Chairman Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said in a joint statement Thursday.
2024 roundup: In this rollicking presidential season, President Biden is trying to seize back the limelight as part of his reelection bid — and for other Democratic candidates. As The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in his latest Memo, he’s facing headwinds and is about to begin a $25 million campaign ad blitz. … Border crossings by migrant families reached an all-time high in August (The Washington Post). … Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis traded the presidential campaign trail for crisis management (The Associated Press). …GOP entrepreneur and presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is isolating himself on the topic of Ukraine assistance (The Hill). … Kentucky Republican Rep. James Comer, 51, who chairs the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, is flirting with higher office, possibly governor or the Senate, if a seat, now held by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), opens up (NBC News). Comer, in a phone interview from Kentucky, told CNN he’s happy serving in the House but didn’t rule out a bid for higher office, saying: “I can’t predict the future. I don’t know what’ll happen.” … Former Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer — one of 10 Republicans who voted in 2021 to impeach former President Trump — set up an exploratory committee for a possible 2024 Senate run for an open seat. He was defeated in a 2022 GOP primary (The Washington Post).
➤ TRUMP WORLD
The former president on Thursday pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in the Georgia election subversion case and waived arraignment next week, meaning he will not have to appear in person (The Associated Press). Trump and his lawyers are seeking to sever his criminal case from some other defendants who are accused along with him of seeking to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia in order to keep him in the White House.
The Hill: Trump trial in Georgia will be livestreamed and televised, judge says.
Joe Biggs, 39, a former leader of the Proud Boys extremist group that backed Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced Thursday to 17 years in prison for seditious conspiracy (The Hill and The Washington Post). Prosecutors sought a sentence of 33 years for the Florida Army veteran. Zachary Rehl, 38, who led the Philadelphia Proud Boys, was sentenced on Thursday to 15 years. Former Proud Boys Chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
© The Associated Press / Ryan C. Hermens, Lexington Herald-Leader via AP | Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at Fancy Farm, Ky., on Aug. 5.
The Capitol’s attending physician consulted with McConnell and his neurology team and said in a Thursday statement that the 81-year-old senator is “medically clear to continue with his schedule as planned.”
Physician Brian Monahan — an internist and Navy rear admiral with expertise in hematology and oncology — echoed an explanation offered by staff members on Wednesday that McConnell was momentarily lightheaded when he froze midsentence for 30 seconds while taking reporters’ questions in Kentucky. It was the second such incident since July and occurred months after McConnell’s concussion last spring, which necessitated inpatient rehabilitative treatment (The Hill).
This week’s incident revived concerns about McConnell’s health and stoked ongoing political debate about whether — and how — age and health should factor into length of terms and requirements for public service. McConnell’s term expires in 2026; he is the longest serving party leader in Senate history.
▪ The Washington Post: McConnell has a history of keeping his health challenges private. Three neurologists consulted by the Post about the senator’s freeze episodes suggested possible explanations and avenues for testing in any patient, including seizures and drops in blood pressure.
▪ Yahoo News: The three Republican senators who are likeliest to succeed McConnell as leader. Each is named John.
▪ Roll Call: The McConnell incident highlights seniority of Congress.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Politicians love to talk. Just not about their health.
The National Review on Thursday praised McConnell in an editorial but urged him to exit his Senate leadership role. “Stepping aside from leadership would not necessarily require leaving the Senate; McConnell could, like [former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)], remain in office, and he would doubtless remain influential so long as he is capable of serving,” the unnamed authors wrote. “But the job of caucus leader demands more.”
A handful of GOP senators are pondering whether to force a fraught internal debate about their leadership’s future in reaction to McConnell’s freeze incidents, Politico reports. Some rank-and-file Republicans have discussed the possibility of a broader conversation once senators return to the Capitol next week. Party leaders are not currently involved in those discussions, Politico adds.
Meanwhile, as The Hill’s Aris Folley reports, Congress is feeling pressured to protect the National Flood Insurance Program, which is set to lapse on Sept. 30 as the fiscal year ends. The worry is that a brewing budget battle and possible shutdown could impact the program.
▪ The Hill: Biden is adding $4 billion to his appropriations request to Congress for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund, bringing the administration’s total proposal to $16 billion.
▪ The Washington Post: For embattled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), a life in Brazil is at odds with his GOP politics.
■ Clarence Thomas discloses, the media opposes, by James Taranto, editorial features editor commentary, The Wall Street Journal.
■ Direct democracy is saving abortion rights. Conservatives want it gone, by Hannah Ledford, opinion contributor, The Hill.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will convene for a pro forma session at 4:30 p.m. Lawmakers return to Washington Sept. 11.
The Senate is out until Tuesday and will hold a pro forma session at 11:45 a.m.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will speak at 11:15 a.m. in the Rose Garden about the latest jobs report for August. The president will travel to Florida on Saturday to visit areas impacted by Hurricane Idalia (CNN).
Vice President Harris is in Washington today. She has no public schedule.
Economic indicator: The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. will report on employment in August.
© The Associated Press / Alexander Zemlianichenko | An informal street memorial for Wagner Group’s military group members killed in a plane crash last week near the Kremlin on Sunday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is moving to take control of Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s sprawling operations in the Middle East and Africa just days after Prigozhin died in a mysterious plane crash. Sources told Bloomberg News that a Defense Ministry-affiliated armed contractor is poised to assume charge of Wagner’s operations in the Central African Republic. Meanwhile, a newly released video of Prigozhin purports to show him in Africa only days before his death, addressing speculation about his well-being and possible threats to his security. The Kremlin has rejected the suggestion that Putin had Prigozhin killed in revenge as an “absolute lie,” but has said the investigation into the crash is examining the possibility of foul play (Reuters).
Ukrainian forces have penetrated the main Russian defensive line in their country’s southeast, raising hopes of a breakthrough that would reinvigorate the slow-moving counteroffensive (The Wall Street Journal). After penetrating a major line of Russian defenses around the southern village of Robotyne, Ukrainian forces are now engaged in a fierce battle a few miles further to the east. Weeks of brutal fighting have resulted in small but significant advances that Ukrainian forces are trying to exploit, and analysts say the move toward Verbove is notable because it shows that Ukraine feels it holds Robotyne securely enough to try to press forward (The New York Times).
▪ Politico EU: Counteroffensive critics are “spitting into the face” of our soldiers, Ukraine says.
▪ The New York Times: An obsolete German tank seeks a second life on Ukraine’s front lines.
▪ The Washington Post analysis: Amid a wave of West African coups, France faces a reckoning.
A fire ripped through a run-down apartment building mainly occupied by homeless people and squatters in Johannesburg early Thursday, leaving at least 74 dead, South African officials said. Witnesses saw some people throw babies out of third-story windows to others waiting below in the desperate scramble to evacuate. At least 12 of those killed were children, the youngest a 1-year-old (The Associated Press). The New York Times reports that witness accounts, imagery of the blaze and a visit to the site in May indicate that the five-story building had a litany of major safety issues that made it vulnerable to a deadly fire.
▪ The Washington Post: Amid record heat in Asia, even indoor factory workers enter dangerous terrain.
▪ The Associated Press: North Korea says it simulated nuclear attacks on South Korea and rehearsed the occupation of its rival.
▪ The Washington Post: Japanese ministers eat Fukushima sashimi to show water release is safe.
▪ NBC News: Biden does not plan to meet Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in India as it remains unclear if Xi will even attend.
© The Associated Press / Richard Drew | Princess Diana visited Harlem Hospital in New York City in 1989.
And finally … Bravo to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners!
Here’s who correctly identified four bits of trivia about the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Britain (and the British royals): Patrick Kavanagh, Paul Harris, Richard Baznik, Lou Tisler, Terry Pflaumer, Ki Harvey, Candida Miramontes, Stan Wasser, Lynn Gardner, William Chittam, Randall S. Patrick, Harry Strulovici, Jaina Mehta, Martha B. Higgins, Luther Berg, Jerry LaCamera, Pam Manges, Robert Bradley, Anita Bales, Jose Ramos, Priscilla M. Cobb, Steve James, Candi Cee and Lori Benso.
They knew that King George VI and the future Queen Mother made the first visit by British royals to the United States(at the invitation of Franklin Roosevelt in 1939).
John F. Kennedy was reported to have been “unimpressed by the palace furnishings and by the Queen’s dress and hairstyle” when he visited Buckingham Palace.
In 1989, Princess Diana made her first overseas trip without Prince Charles, to New York City. She attended galas, met with politicians and visited a hospital, where she continued her work to destigmatize HIV/AIDS while hugging a 7-year-old boy being treated for the virus.
After making headlines with their public split from the royal family, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, relocated to California.
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